What is a Contextual Menu in Windows?

Find out what a contextual menu is in Windows as we dive in and also show you why they are necessary and the benefits to when we use a computer.

It’s not a concept that is exclusive to Windows, but many operating systems of most kinds make use of context menus.

What’s a contextual menu?

opening and displaying a contextual menu

When you click your right mouse button, a menu will appear. It is known as the contextual or context menu.

Depending on where your mouse is hovering over at the time, depends on the menu contents and it’s options.

Quite often, secondary and tertiary hover menus are found. This allows for more options to be opened under an umbrella menu item.

What’s the purpose of a contextual menu?

One of the main purposes is to make the UI (User Interface) more compact. By keeping extra options in a menu that doesn’t take up any room, allows for less screen area to be used by static inbuilt menus or options.

Some critics argue that it creates confusion for the user and other issues like where can be displayed because of limited space areas.

In my view, they are essential and a reasonable solution for our limitations in our current 2D user interfaces.

Where do they get used in Windows?

The main places that they would be used are in the Windows UI, files, icons, and within menus and various settings. They are also used in software applications. Contextual menus are even available in your browser.

In short, they are basically everywhere. Context menus are so widely used that it’s difficult to not see them when right-clicking your mouse anywhere.

So, if you ever get stuck when wanting to accomplish something in Windows or any software, see what the contextual menu has to offer, it might have what you are looking for.

They are also used in other operating systems for computers, smartphones, tablets, and many more devices.


The contextual menu has been around for a while. Invented in the mid-’70s by Dan Ingalls who was a pioneer of object-orientated computer programming.

It will most likely be around for some time to come.